Tag Archives: memory triggers

Remember Always

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her father who taught her how to watch her money.My father taught me to sweat a hundred hours before spending a hundred dollars. He died six years ago. But he still shows up for every move I make involving money. He is also in my thoughts when I’m near an ocean, or when I hear an airplane flying overhead.

When I see yellow leaves on the ground, I’m reminded of my friend Andrea who walked with me in a forest of golden maples dropping leaves like tears, in the October before she died.

Rainbow cookies. The sight of them carries me back to my grandmother Omi Rosie.

And when there’s a moon, I stop to remember my daughter.

“I see the moon. The moon sees me. The moon sees the one I long to see,” I’d sung as a girl and later as a mother holding my young Marika. Our planet has one moon. I’ve been singing to it all my life. I can’t always see it but it is out there. Anyone can see the moon, just not all the time. Our ancestors watched that same moon. Our children’s children will look up to the same sky. And wherever Marika is, or is not, if she looks for light in the dark night, she will see the moon. So I keep singing to it. And remembering her.

We have the power to link our loved ones to anything. They are never gone as long as we hold them in our hearts and remember the gifts, miniscule or mighty, they gave us. Worried about forgetting loved ones, I assigned each a “bookmark” or two, special meaningful images like yellow leaves, airplanes, rainbow cookies, or the moon, to forever after be my signal to remember them. In this way, I have regular, but unplanned, appointments with my loved ones who died.


How do you remember the ones you love and thought you lost?

Reconstructing a Memory

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops the image of her daughter who died, with friends, in a reconstruction of a memory.“Mom, I want to be a mermaid this year. Mom, I want to be a fairy princess.” My daughter loved to dress up. Even beyond Halloween, which she made last two whole months, Marika had me rummaging for fabrics and sewing frilly feminine gowns, dressing her up like she was my little doll. Then, she would pose patiently with a serious face as I applied makeup, and captured the creation in a photo.

The assignment in my photography class this week was to “construct a scene that attempts to reconstruct a memory or even a fragment of it.”
“Oh no, another memory thing,” I said, aware of spending a good portion of my time and energy the past four years reconstructing memories. Photography for healing is something I recommend to anyone recovering from a loss, but it is not for the faint-of-heart. It is like facing the bleak facts of your situation, and sharing them over and over again until you can tell your story without tears. Most of the time.

The meltdown wasn’t from the photographs, or the photo-shoot, which took little time because my models eagerly cooperated, bouncing about in the glad rags I handed out. By that point I’d composed myself, and was enjoying the merriment costumes bring out. But, in my scrambling about for the outfits, tearing through the giant Tupperware bins of old clothes, finding the baby sweaters my mother knit, the strawberry nightgown, and the flowery mother-daughter frocks, … touching the sundresses Marika had outgrown, something had sent my memory spinning in tessellations.


What memory might you try to reconstruct in words or in an art-form? Does your favorite photograph capture a memory? Or does it construct a memory?

Memory Triggers

Memory Triggers Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops saguaro cactus and her young daughter being lifted high in her chair.The first thing I noticed in Tucson was prickly pear cactus. It looked like bunches of lollipops. They were all over. Tucson, with its sculpted mountains and cactus statues everywhere I turned, was like no place I could remember. The desert, the canyons, saguaro, and javelinas; it was all strange territory.
The event that brought me to Tucson was almost as foreign as the landscape: my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah, a coming-of-age celebration in the Jewish religion.

Religion and bar mitzvahs have little to do with my life. Years back, I had tried to give religion to my children, wanting them to have what I did not. But those days were long gone. My daughter gone, my son going off to lands stranger than this, I’d forgotten their bat and bar mitzvahs. I was in Tucson for my Aunt Terri and my cousins. And I was excited about the hike I would take, meeting up with friends from Ithaca who would show me mountains up close, and canyons. There was the promise of sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, tamales, good Mexican food. Tucson might be the place I’d retire to someday. I had only happy thoughts.

Maybe it was the passage that the bat mitzvah girl read, an old favorite of my kids’, about the Nile River spewing frogs all over Egypt. Or maybe it was when the lollipop cactus started to look like bouquets of flattened balloons deflating, falling to the ground. Or the sight of the girl’s long hair pulled back revealing tiny earrings, the lace on her princess-perfect dress, the bright thirteen-year-old smile. Maybe, when the cacti began to resemble carousing dancers, I started to notice the prickly thorns. Soon thorns were stinging my eyes, grinding in my stomach, all over, everywhere. So by the time the crowd cheered and lifted the girl high up in her chair over their heads, something in me burst. I dashed off, frantically running out, away, fast, anywhere.

Outside there was blinding sunshine. The sky was vast and blue. My feet stopped at the edge of a small ravine and I howled for who knows how long. Riots of lollipop cactus hugged the ground around me. I photographed them as I waited for my eyes to lose their red grief-struck look. Damn. Darn, I thought. Good thing I wasn’t wearing eye makeup. It seems, no matter where I go, sweet memories of my daughter will follow.


What strange things have triggered your emotions?